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WHO Report Urges Countries To Step Up Fight Against Drug-Resistant TB

A WHO report released Wednesday says countries with the highest drug-resistant tuberculosis burdens are making progress in addressing the disease, “but despite the recent scale up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all [multi-drug resistant] patients who need it,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, Times LIVE reports (Keeton, 3/23).

The WHO estimates that more than two million people could contract MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015, the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Without greater efforts to fight TB, hundreds of thousands of people could die, Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB Department, told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday (3/23).

Country programs – which receive funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and follow WHO treatment guidelines – “are expected to diagnose and treat about 200,000 people for MDR-TB by 2015, a fourfold increase from those 50,000 patients who are currently undergoing treatment,” a joint press release by the WHO and Global Fund states. The Global Fund will provide an estimated 84 percent of all international TB investments in 2011, according to the release (3/23).

Ahead of Thursday’s World TB Day, WHO, the Global Fund and the Stop TB Partnership called on world leaders to increase their contributions to meet the goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015, Times LIVE writes. “It is time for countries with rapidly growing economies and a heavy burden of MDR-TB to step up their commitment and financing for their own MDR-TB programmes. Several have the capacity to show new leadership on south-south cooperation and aid to neighbouring countries that are also affected,” said Jorge Sampaio, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to Stop TB (3/23).

A WHO factsheet (.pdf) highlights the report’s key findings.

Researchers Launch TB Vaccine Information Website

Canadian researchers on Tuesday launched a website that provides free information about TB in more than 180 countries, CBC News reports (3/22).  

“The BCG World Atlas, created by researchers at McGill University, is being touted as a first-of-its-kind resource for clinicians, policymakers and researchers,” Postmedia News reports. The site provides information on “current and past vaccine policies and practices” (Lim, 3/22).

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is the only vaccine available to prevent TB, but it’s efficacy varies and policies and practices differ, a McGill University press release notes. Alice Zwerling, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at McGill who led the BCG World Atlas project, “explained that BCG vaccination can cause false positives in the skin test that’s routinely used to screen for latent TB. ‘As a clinician, if you’re trying to interpret the skin test in a foreign-born person, you’re going to want to know when the BCG vaccination was given back home and how many times it has been given. The Atlas provides this information and can help doctors decide on when to use the newly available blood tests for TB that are not affected by BCG vaccination,’ she added,” according to the press release.

Madhukar Pai, who is an assistant professor at McGill’s Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, said the project has “important implications on diagnosing and treating TB and on the research that’s being done on developing a new TB vaccine.” The researchers also described the project in a paper in PLoS Medicine (3/22).  

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.